Quoted: Twitter exec apologizes, says ‘diversity a key priority’

“I want Twitter to be a place where all employees feel comfortable raising questions about diversity. That hasn’t always been the case, which is unacceptable. The comments attributed to me aren’t an accurate or complete facsimile, but they conveyed a meaning that was very far from what I intended, which means I did a poor job communicating. That resulted in unnecessary pain and confusion, for which I am truly sorry.”

— Alex Roetter, senior vice president of engineering at Twitter, in response to a former employee’s public criticism of the company’s diversity effort. In a Medium post this week, that former employee, Leslie Miley, wrote:

Personally, a particularly low moment was having my question about what specific steps Twitter engineering was taking to increase diversity answered by the Sr. VP of Eng at the quarterly Engineering Leadership meeting. When he responded with ‘diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar,’ I then realized I was the only African-American in Eng leadership.

As I wrote earlier this week, Twitter is one of the few companies to publicly disclose its workplace diversity goals amid increased attention to diversity issues in the tech industry. The San Francisco microblogging company, which had about 4,100 employees worldwide before laying off more than 300 workers last month, said this year it has a U.S. workforce that is 2 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic, 31 percent Asian and 59 percent white. It said it wants to increase the percentage of “underrepresented minorities” to 11 percent. As for gender, its overall workforce is 34 percent female.

Also this week after Miley’s post was published, the Rev. Jesse Jackson asked Twitter to release the racial breakdown of the layoffs, USA Today reported. Jackson said he was concerned about the number of minorities affected. A Twitter spokeswoman told me “the restructuring did not adversely impact underrepresented groups.”

According to TechCrunch, Miley was laid off but had already planned to leave, and refused the severance package so he “could speak openly about his experience at Twitter.” In his Medium post, Miley said:

With my departure, Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management. From this position, Twitter may find it difficult to make the changes to culture and product.

Finally, here’s more from Roetter’s Medium post, which was published Thursday night:

I realize that we have blind spots, myself included. One of mine is that I have a tendency to default to engineering-driven, quantitative solutions. The issues Leslie raise require so much more than that. I’ve learned a lot this week. We as a company are working to address our blind spots swiftly to build a Twitter that will make our employees and people who use our services proud.


Photo from Getty Images


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  • Chris McVey

    How come diversity always means cramming non white people into a situation that some egghead determines is too white?

    Are non white people incapable of starting their own ventures? Then certainly they are not ‘equal’ and would not be desirable to an established organization. Else they can and should instead of using the government shoehorn to force what they think is something good on an entity that doesn’t agree else they wouldn’t need coercion.

    And why doesn’t it go both ways? I say the NBA needs more diversity even if a bunch of white guys aren’t the most effective picks for the job.

    • ellafino

      You are making the same mistake that the Twitter executive made, which is that diversity automatically means having to take the lesser.

      • Chris McVey

        If diversity was inherently better then coercion wouldn’t be necessary.

        If diversity is neither better or worse then there is no need as it’s diversity for diversity’s sake.

  • Bill Gradwohl

    Competence is the only thing that’s important. Don’t discriminate against anyone except by looking at their competence to do the job.

  • annjohns

    super annoying.

  • ghebert

    Can’t believe he kowtowed to the PC police…have some balls and stand your ground. DO NOT LOWER THE BAR.

  • observer

    Meanwhile, there have been (are) thousands of firefighters fighting the Cal. wildfires, including prisoners (around 30%). The vast majority are male. How come nobody’s screaming for diversity on that? Likewise police, loggers, truck drivers, plumbers, drywall hangers, miners, construction etc. Why just the tech sector and top-level executive positions?

    • Elilla Shadowheart

      Oh those are dangerous jobs. The people “fighting for diversity” don’t want those type of jobs, they want the soft, easy ones where they can sit in an office all day.